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The National Park Service is once again requiring visitors to wear masks inside buildings and in crowded outdoor areas, the agency announced on Monday.
In a press release, the NPS said that it would begin enforcing the restrictions immediately and that they would apply to all visitors, vaccinated or unvaccinated, in all areas regardless of Covid-19 transmission rates.
“Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world. Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge.
Across the United States, Covid case numbers have hit their highest levels since last winter’s spike, as vaccination rates still linger below 50% in some states and the more-contagious Delta variant of the virus becomes prevalent. In hard-hit states like Louisiana, governments have re-imposed mask mandates in an attempt to slow the virus’s spread.
National parks have seen a surge in visitation since the beginning of the pandemic last year, with many breaking records and some, like Rocky Mountain National Park and Yosemite National Park, requiring advance reservations for visitors. So far, few outbreaks have been directly traced to the parks and the Centers for Disease Control still recommends outdoor recreation as a safer alternative to indoor gathers. In the press release, Maria Said, an epidemiologist in the NPS Office of Public Health, urged park-goers to get vaccinated.
“Being vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of the coronavirus. Masking in addition to being vaccinated will help prevent the spread of new variants and protect those who are more at risk of severe disease,” Said said. “This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our national parks.”